Lord Vishnu, in Kurma
Avatar (tortoise incarnation), had first preached this Purana to Narad.
In his turn, Narad narrated it to Sutji who later narrated this Purana
to an assembly of the great sages. Initially, this Purana had four parts
namely Bramhi Samhita, Bhagawati Samhita, Gauri Samhita and Vaishnavi
Samhita. Presently, however, none of these Samhitas is available except
Brahm Samhita. Present version too contains two parts-Purv and Uttar
Purv Part: Tale of Indradyumna. Description of Kurm Purana.
Description of Varnashram. Description of the sequence of these
ashramas. Origin of the geo-sphere. Description of various incarnations.
Preaching of the gods. Description of the self-begotten Manu.
Destruction of Daksh’s yagya. Killing of Hiranyakashipu. Vamana avatar
(dwarf incarnation). Description of Ikshvaku clan. Description of
Pururava clan. Description of Rama and Krishna incarnations. Description
of Satya-, Treta-, Dwapar- and Kali yugas. Greatness of Varanasi.
Greatness of Lingas. Greatness of Prayag and Yamuna etc.
Uttar Part: Yoga of unexpressed knowledge. Appearance of
Devadidev (Rudra) during Tandava. Description of metaphysical knowledge.
Preaching of metaphysical knowledge by the God. Description of Ashtang
Yoga. Duties of a celibate. Duties of a graduate. Description of edible
and non-edible things. Rituals to be performed regularly. Rituals of
dining. Description of the duties of a Vanaprasthi. Duties of an
ascetic. Description of expiation. Expiation for drinking of wine.
Greatness of different places of pilgrimage.
consists of 35 chapters:
manthana story is given in great detail in the Ramayana and the
Mahabharata. As for Lakshmi, some of the Puranas state that she was born
as the daughter of Khyati and the sage Bhrigu. She was then married to
Vishnu. But the demons defeated the gods and Indra. The sage Durvasa
therefore cursed Lakshmi that she would have to live in the ocean. And
when the ocean was churned, Lakshmi emerged yet again.)
Indra, the other
gods, and the sages were charmed at Lakshmi’s beauty when she appeared.
“Who is this wonderful goddess?” they asked Vishnu.
“This is Lakshmi,”
replied Vishnu. “She is also known as Shakti. It is with her help that I
delude the universe and its inhabitants with my illusions (maya). It is
Lakshmi who gives me all my powers, although she is no different from me
proceeded to tell the gods and the sages the story of Indradyumna.
Many years ago,
there was a king named Indradyumna. He ruled the world well and, when he
died, was reborn as a brahmana, (The brahmanas constitute the first of
the four classes, their primary duties are to study the Vedas and
As a brahmana,
Indradyumna observed religious rites and meditated. He also stared to
pray to the goddess Lakshmi. When Lakshmi appeared, Indradyumna begged
of her, “Please tell me about yourself. Please give me insight into what
constitutes true knowledge.”
“Even the gods and
the sages are unable to comprehend my true nature,” replied Lakshmi. “I
an Vishnu’s illusions and there is no difference between him and me. As
for knowledge, it is beyond my powers to grant you that. You will have
to pray to the great Vishnu himself.”
Having said this,
Lakshmi disappeared, and Indradyumna started to pray to Vishnu. Several
years passed, but Indradyumna continued to meditate. Finally, Vishnu
appeared and instructed Indradyumna on the path to true knowledge.
“What did you tell
Indradyumna?” asked the gods and the sages. “What was this wonderful
“I will repeat it
for your benefit,” replied Vishnu.
repeated his teachings while in the form of a turtle of Kurma, these
sacred words are known as the Kurma Purana. There are many subjects that
Vishnu’s instructions covered, but let us first start with the concept
of varnashrama dharma, Dharma means righteousness and these precepts lay
down the fundamental principles of righteous conduct. This is typified
in the system of four varnas (classes) and four ashramas (stages of
Vishnu said that
before creation began, there was only water in the universe and Vishnu
slept on these waters. When it was time for creation to begin, Brahma
emerged from Vishnu’s body. And Shiva emerged from Vishnu’s anger.
Lakshmi too was created from Vishnu’s body and took her place by
Brahma told Vishnu,
“Please use this goddess to delude the beings whom I will create. Tell
her to sow the seeds of illusions in their minds. Please tell her to
make the righteous prosper.”
Vishnu complied. He
requested Lakshmi, “Please delude and destroy gods, demons and humans
who are about to be created. But please leave the righteous alone and
make them prosper. I will tell you how to know the righteous. They are
those that follow the precepts of varnashrama dharma.”
constitute the first of the four classes. Brahma created nine sons from
his mental powers. Their names were Marichi, Bhrigu, Angira, Pulastya,
Pulaha, Kratu, Daksha, Atri and Vashishtha. These sons became sages and
they were the first brahmanas. They were created from Brahma’s mouth
There are six types of action that are recommended for brahmanas. These
are yajana (performing sacrifices), yajana (acting as priests at
sacrifices), dana (donation of alms), pratigraha (receiving gifts),
adhyapana (teaching and adhyayana (studying). A brahmana who performs
these tasks well, attains the wonderful place known as prajapatya. (This
would seem to be synonymous with Brahma’s residence of Brahmaloka).
constitute the second of the four classes. They were created from
Brahma’s arms. The duties of kshatriyas include dana (donation of alms),
adhyayana (studying) and performing yajnas (sacrifices). But their
primary duties are to take up arms and fight, It is their job to punish
the evil and protect the good. A kshatriya who performs these tasks
well, attains Indra’s residence of Indraloka.
constitute the third of the four classes. They were created from
Brahma’s thighs. Like the kshatriyas, the vaishyas can also donate alms,
study and perform sacrifices, But their primary duty is agriculture, (In
many other Puranas, trade and animal husbandry are mentioned in addition
to agriculture). A vaishya who performs these tasks well, gets to live
with Vayu, the god of the wind.
constitute the last of the four classes. They were created from Brahma’s
feet. Their primary duty is to serve the other three classes. In
addition, a shudra can adopt artisanship as an occupation, A shudra who
performs these tasks well, will live with the gandharvas (singers of
all four classes have to observe the religion that is prescribed in the
vedas. There are various other shastras (religious texts) that circulate
on earth. But many of them are against the Vedas. The religion that is
prescribed in such anti-Vedic texts must not be followed. Only sinners
follow such religions, and they are doomed to eternal damnation.
There are four
ashramas (stages of life). The first one is brahmacharya (celibate
studenthood). The primary duties of a person who is in this stage of
life are studying the Vedas and serving one’s guru (teacher) well. He
has to live on alms that are obtained through begging. When this stage
of life if over, there are two options that are available to the
individual. In rare instances, he may desire to devote the rest of his
life to studying and meditation. Such a person is known as naishthika.
More commonly, individuals wish to step into the next stage of life, An
individual who does so is known as an upakurvana.
The second stage of
life is garhasthya (householder stage). A householder’s primary duties
are serving guests, performing sacrifices, donating alms, worshipping
the gods and keeping the sacred fire burning in the house at all times.
In cases where the householder is absent from the house, these functions
are to be performed by his wife or sons, or even by his priest. A
householder must not also forget to study a little bit of the Vedas
every day. The householder stage is superior to the other three stages
of life. The reason is that the alms provided by a householder are the
means of sustenance for individuals who are in the other three stages of
life. A householder may be one of two types. He may be a sadhaka, in
which case his chief obsession is that of satisfying his friends and
relatives. Alternatively, there may be a householder who is udasina.
This means that he is not really interested in his wife, his sons or in
the acquisition of material wealth. His chief obsession is that of being
freed from the bonds of the world.
The third stage of
life is vanaprastha (forest dwelling stage). Such a person retires to
the forest and lives on fruits and roots. He studies the Vedas, performs
tapasya (meditation) and observes religious rites. One should never
embark on a forest-dwelling stage unless one’s mind is ready for it.
This also means that one must have had sons. Without sons to carry on
the line, it is not recommended that a householder venture out on the
forest-dwelling stage. There are two types of forest-dwellers. The first
type consists of individuals who primarily devote themselves to
worshipping the gods and performing religious ceremonies. Such an
individual is known as a tapasya, because he does do some tapasya. But
there are individuals who devote themselves entirely to meditation. Such
a person is known as a sannyasika, since there is very little of
difference between him and a sannyasi (hermit).
The fourth and
final stage of life is sannyasa (hermithood). Such individuals spend all
their time in meditating. They beg food for a living. It is not proper
to become a hermit unless one’s mind has achieved detachment from the
world. There are two types of hermits. The first type consists of those
who are trying to realise the true nature of the atman (human soul).
Such a person treats all other individuals as he would treat himself and
is known as a yogi, but there are also hermits who go through intense
meditation so as to attain the supreme wisdom. Such a person is known as
There are various
other traits that are demanded by the righteous way of life. One must
forgive and display pity, one must not be jealous and must be ready to
sacrifice one’s own selfish interests. One must be truthful, practice
non-violence and learn to control the senses. One must also visit
tirthas (places of pilgrimage). It is also important to realise that one
does not perform actions for the sake of the fruits of the actions. The
fruits of all actions vest with the brahman (the divine essence). In
fact, it is a gross misconception to think that la specific action is
being performed by an individual. All actions are performed by the
brahman, the ordinary human being is merely an instrument. As long as
this realisation is missing, an individual is ignorant and is doomed to
the shackles of worldly bonds.
narrated to the gods and the sages the history of creation.
In the beginning,
the brahman was everywhere. The brahman had no form, but nor was it
without form. It had no beginning and no end. It had no traits, but nor
was it without traits. The brahman is impossible to describe, sense or
Brahma, Vishnu and
Shiva are derived from the brahman, Brahma performs the function of a
creator, Vishnu that of a preserver and Shiva that of destroyer.
When it was time
for creation to begin, the brahman created water throughout the
universe. Before that, there was nothing. In the water, there appeared a
golden (hiranya) egg (anda). The egg grew in size and Brahma, the
creator, appeared inside the egg. Everything that there is in the
universe, was already there, in in embryonic form, inside the egg. There
were gods, the demons humans, the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets
and the wind. The word garbha means womb and since Brahma originated
from inside a golden (hiranya) egg, he is known as Hiranyagarbha. Brahma
was the first being to be created. He had four faces. He had no birth
(janana) in the real sense of the term. He is therefore also referred to
as Aja (without birth). It is also true that he created (bhuva) himself
(svayam). It is because of this that Brahma is known as Svayambhu.
Brahma was to be the lord (pati) of all the subjects who were going to
be born (praja). Thus, Brahma acquired the name of Prajapati.
To appreciate how
creation took place, it is first necessary to have some conception about
the nature of time.
The smallest unit
of time is a nimesha. Fifteen nimeshas make one kashtha, thirty kashthas
are one kala and thirty kalas constitute one muhurta. There are thirty
muhurtas in a span of day and night (ahoratra). Thirty such ahoratras
make up a month. There are two pakshas (fortnight) in every month. Six
months constitute an ayana and two ayanas a year. There are thus twelve
months in every year. The names of the two ayanas are uttarayana and
dakshinayana, While humans pass through uttarayana, the gods pass
through only one day. Similarly, when humans pass through dakshinayana,
the gods pass through merely one night. One year for humans is
equivalent to a time span of one day and one night for the gods.
years of the gods make up one mahayuga. This is subdivided into four
yugas (eras). The names of these eras are satya yuga or krita yuga,
treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga. Satya yuga has four thousand
years, treta yuga three thousand, dvapara yuga two thousand and kali
yuga one thousand. This adds up to ten thousand years. But there are
also periods that join two yugas: (sandhyamsha). Satya yuga has a
sandhyamsha of four hundred years, treta yuga of three hundred, dvapara
yuga of two hundred and kali yuga of one hundred, There will therefore
be seven hundred additional years between satya yuga and treta yuga,
five hundred between treta yuga and dvapara yuga of two hundred and kali
yuga of one hundred. There will therefore be seven hundred additional
years between satya yuga and treta yuga, five hundred between treta yuga
and dvapara yuga, three hundred between dvapara yuga and kali yuga and
five hundred between kali yuga and the next satya yuga. These are two
thousand additional years, and when added up to the earlier figure of
ten thousand. make up twelve thousand years.
There are a little
over seventy-one manvantaras (eras) in each mahayuga. Each manvantara is
a time period that is ruled over by a Manu. The first Manu in the
present kalpa (cycle) was Svayambhuva Manu and there were several other
Manus after him. Each kalpa in fact passes during one of brahma’s days
and there are fourteen manvantaras in a kalpa. Stated differently, there
are one thousand mahayugas in every kalpa.
Three hundred and
sixty kalpas constitute one of brahma’s years. One hundred times this
time period is known as a parardha. At the end of this period, the whole
universe is destroyed and Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are also destroyed.
At the end of the destruction, creation starts afresh and this creation
is known as sarga.
There is a smaller
process of destruction that takes place at the end of every kalpa.
Brahma Vishnu and Shiva are not destroyed, but everything else is. The
creation that comes at the end of this minor destruction is known as
The present kalpa
is known as varaha kalpa. The one that preceded it was known as padma
“Why is the present
kalpa called varaha kalpa?” the gods and the sages asked Vishnu.
Vishnu told them
the story of his boar incarnation.
A varaha is a boar
and the boar incarnation is usually catalogued as the third of Vishnu’s
When the universe
was submerged in water after the destruction that came at the end of
padma kalpa, Vishnu slept on the waters. Thus he slept for a thousand
mahayugas. Since the word nara means water and ayana means
resting-place, Vishnu is also referred to as Narayana.
Brahma decided to
start creation afresh, but discovered that the earth was submerged in
water. How would his creations survive if there was no earth? He
therefore requested Vishnu to bring the earth up from under the water.
Vishnu adopted the
form of a boar and went to the underworld. He discovered the earth there
and raised her up on the tusks of the boar. The boar carefully raised
the earth and laid her to rest on top of the water. The earth began to
float like a gigantic boat.
Since Vishnu raised
the earth in the form of a boar at the beginning of the kalpa, the
present cycle is known as varaha kalpa.
(The story of the
boar incarnation is rather summarily disposed of in the Kurma Purana.
The other Puranas describe it at great length. Apart from the question
of raising up the earth from under the water, the story revolves around
the demon Hiranyaksha. this demon was the son of the sage Kashyapa and
his wife Diti. He defeated the gods and drove them out of heaven. In
desperation, the gods started to pray to Vishnu. Hiranyaksha used to
live under the water and Vishnu entered the water in his form of a boar
and killed Hiranyaksha. He also recovered the Vedas which had been
stolen by Hiranyaksha.)
created five sons through his mental powers. Their names were Sanaka,
Sanatana, Sanandana, Kratu and Sanatakumara These five sons became sages
and did not have any offspring. Brahma therefore had to create some more
beings so that the population of the universe might increase. But prior
to that, he decided to perform tapasya. However, the meditation did not
yield him any results and Brahma became very angry and disheartened. He
started to weep and a teardrop fell on the ground. From this drop, there
Brahma bowed before
Shiva and said, “Please create some living beings.”
proceeded to do. But all the beings that Shiva created were mirror
images of himself. That is, they were all immortal.
“I beg your
pardon,” retorted Shiva. “That I refuse to do. Old age and disease are
not objects that should be sought after. In fact, they are evil. I
flatly refuse to create such evil.”
“All right then.”
said Brahma. “I will take care of creation myself. Please stop
The first objects
that Brahma created were water, fire, the sky, heaven (svarga), wind,
rivers, mountains, oceans, trees, herbs and time.
Brahma next created
eleven sons from his mental powers. Their names were Marichi, Bhrigu,
Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Daksha, Atri Vashishtha, Dharma and
(In the earlier
section on varnashrama dharma, only nine sons were mentioned. Dharma and
Sankalpa did not figure in that list.)
created four classes of beings. These were gods, demons, ancestors
(pitris) and humans. The demons were born from Brahma’s thighs, the gods
from his mouth. The snakes (sarpa), the yakshas (demi-gods), the ghosts
(bhuta) and the gandharvas were born next. Cows were born from Brahma’s
stomach, and horses, elephants, donkeys, deer, camels and mules from his
feet. Herbs and trees emerged from Brahma’s body-hair.
contradicts a more common account given in some of the other Puranas,
such as the Bhagavata Purana. In the more usual account, all beings are
descended from the sage Kashyapa. Kashyapa married thirteen of Daksha’s
daughters. These daughters were named Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kashtha,
Arishtha, Surasa, Ila, Muni, Krodhavasha, Tamra, Surabhi, Sarama and
Timi. Aditi’s offspring were the gods (adityas), Diti’s the demons
(daityas). Danu’s offspring were other demons (danavas), Kashtha’s
children horses, Arishtha’s gandharvas, Surasa’s demons (rakshasas),
Ila’s offspring trees and herbs, Muni’s the apsaras (dancers of heaven),
Krodhavasha’s ghosts (pishachas), Tamra’s birds, Surabhi’s cattle,
Sarama’s wild animals and Timi’s marine creatures. The Kurma Purana
itself refers to this alternative account subsequently).
To return to the
present account of the Kurma Purana, Brahma thereafter divided his body
into two. One half was male and was called Svayambhuva Manu. The
remaining half was female and was called Shatarupa. Manu and Shatarupa
married and had two sons and two daughters. The sons were named
Priyavrata and Uttanapada and the daughters were named Prasuti and
Akuti. Since all humans are Manu’s descendants, they are known as
Daksha and they had twenty-four daughters. (The Puranas are not at all
consistent about the number of daughters Prasuti and Daksha had. The
number is sometimes twenty-four, sometimes fifty and sometimes sixty).
Thirteen of the twenty-four daughters were married to Brahma’s son
Dharma. Of the remaining eleven, Khyati was married to Bhrigu, Sati to
Shiva, Sambhuti to Marichi, Smriti to Angira, Priti to Pulastya, Kshama
to Pulaha, Sannati to Kratu, Anasuya to Atri, Urjja to Vashishtha, Svaha
to the fire-god Agni and Svadha to the ancestors (pitris).
The gods and the
sages told Vishnu, “We are getting a bit confused. You have told us that
Brahma emerged from Vishnu’s body And yet you have also told us how
Brahma was born inside a golden egg. Which of these is the correct
account? Then again, you have told us that Shiva was born from one of
Brahma’s tears. But we have sometimes heard otherwise. Which is right?
Please remove this confusion.”
“There is no
confusion,” replied Vishnu. “Let me explain it for you.”
Brahma was born
from the golden egg right at the beginning, at the time of the original
creation. But at the end of every kalpa there is a minor destruction
when all living beings other than Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva die. When the
destruction is over, creation has to start afresh.
At the end of the
last kalpa, there was water everywhere in the universe. The heaven, the
earth and the underworld, were all flooded with water. There were no
gods and no sages. Only the great Vishnu slept on the water. He had a
thousand hoods, a thousand eyes, a thousand arms and a thousand feet.
This was his form of Ananta, the snake (naga).
(The Kurma Purana
completely identifies Vishnu with Ananta. More commonly, the Puranas
state that the snake Ananta was the son of Kadru and the sage Kashyapa.
He pleased Brahma through his prayers and obtained from Brahma the boon
that he would be permitted to hold up the earth on his hoods. The Kalika
Purana specifically states that, at the time of destruction, Vishnu and
Lakshmi rest on Ananta’s central hood. The Vishnu Purana adds the
information that Ananta was one of Balarama’s avataras. The names Shesha
Vasuki and Gonasa are often used synonymously with Ananta.)
While Vishnu thus
slept on the water, a wonderful lotus sprouted from his navel. the lotus
was gigantic and shone like the sun. Its fragrance spread in all
directions. Brahma appeared inside the lotus. Since padma means lotus
and yoni means place of Birth, Brahma is also known as Padmayoni.
Brahma saw Vishnu
sleeping on the water and woke him up. “Who are you?” asked Brahma.
“I am Vishnu.”
replied Vishnu. “I am the origin of everything. That will be there in
the universe is inside my body.”
“Is that really
so?” asked Vishnu. “Let me see.”
entered Brahma’s body. He really found the three worlds, the gods, the
demons and the humans inside Brahma’s stomach and was greatly surprise.
He emerged from Brahma’s mouth and told Brahma, “What I have seen inside
your body is truly wonderful. But I too can show you many worlds inside
my body. Please enter and see for yourself.”
It was now Brahma’s
turn to enter Vishnu’s body. But when Brahma did this, he could find no
end to Vishnu’s stomach. It was true that there were many worlds inside
Vishnu’s body. However, Brahma could find no way of coming out from
Vishnu’s stomach. He finally jab to emerge through Vishnu’s navel,
through the stalk of the lotus that was there.
“How dare you try
to confine me inside your body?” demanded Brahma, as soon as he managed
to get out.
“Please do not get
angry.” replied Vishnu. “I merely thought that I would play with you for
a while. Otherwise, it is inconceivable that anyone should dare to
confine the great Brahma. Please pardon me. And as a token of your
pardon, please grant me the boon that henceforth, you will be known as
my son. After all, you did emerge from a lotus that grew out of my
Brahma. “Let us make peace. After all; there is no one else. We are the
lords of everything, we are parts of the brahman.”
“Please do not
forget Shiva,” responded Vishnu. “Your words will anger him and bring
about your undoing.”
While the two were
thus conversing, Shiva appeared on the scene. He had a third eye in the
middle of his forehead and his hair was matted. A trident could be seen
in his hand.
“Who is this
fellow?” asked Brahma. “He looks like an upstart.”
Brahma down. He also gave Brahma divine eyes so that Brahma could
comprehend the true nature of Shiva. Brahma then started to pray to
Shiva. Pleased with Brahma’s prayers, Shiva agreed to grant Brahma a
“Please grant me
the boon that you will be born as my son,” said Brahma.
Shiva agreed to do
so and went away.
Brahma returned to
his seat on the lotus flower.
demons named Madhu and Kaitabha appeared, They were exceedingly strong
and threatened to destroy everything that Brahma would create. Brahma
therefore requested Vishnu to kill these two demons. Vishnu created two
beings from his own body and these two beings killed the demons.
(The Madhu and
Kaitabha story is given in greater detail in other Puranas, such as the
Kalika Purana. While Vishnu was sleeping, the two demons were born from
his ears. One of them desired to have some honey as soon as he was born,
Since the word for honey is madhu, he came to be known as Madhu. The
other one looked like an insect. Since the word for insect is kita, he
came to be known as Kaitabha. these brothers attacked Brahma and Vishnu
had to fight with them so as to rescue Brahma. The fight went on for
five thousand years before Vishnu could kill them. after the demons were
killed, the fat (meda) from their bodies formed the earth. That is the
reason why the earth is known as medini.)
After Madhu and
Kaitabha had been killed, Brahma could start to create. He first
created, through his mental powers, the sons whose names have earlier
been mentioned. since Shiva had promised that he would be born as
Brahma’s son, Brahma decided to perform tapasya so as to accomplish
this. He prayed for many years, but nothing happened. In utter
frustration, Brahma began to cry. the ghosts (bhuta and preta) were born
from these tears. Brahma was so disgusted at having created these awful
creatures, that he committed suicide. It was then that Shiva was born
from Brahma’s mouth and Brahma revived.
(You will have
noticed the contradiction. Earlier, it had been stated that Shiva was
born from a teardrop and there had been no mention of Brahma’s suicide,
The suicide is not mentioned in other Puranas either, nor is there any
mention of Shiva or Rudra being born from a teardrop. In the Vishnu
Purana, he suddenly appeared in Brahma’s lap. In the Padma Purana, he
was born from Brahma’s furrowed brows).
The baby started to
cry as soon as he was born.
“Don’t cry,” said
Brahma. ”Since you cried when you were born, you will be known as
(The Kurma Purana
is not specific on why the baby cried. The other Puranas state that the
baby cried for the want of a name. Brahma therefore gave the boy the
name of Rudra, as the word rub means to cry. The boy continued to cry
and Brahma gave him several other names as well. The Puranas however
disagree about what these various names were).
In addition to
Rudra, Brahma gave the boy the names Bhuva, Sarva, Ishana, Pashupati,
Bhima, Ugra and Mahadeva. In these eight different forms, Shiva was to
live in the sun, the water, the sky, the fire, the wind, the trees, the
bodies of brahmanas and the moon.
Shiva was married
to Daksha’s daughter Sati. Sati died and was reborn as Parvati, the
daughter of Himalaya and his wife Mena (alternatively, Menaka). Parvati
was married to Shiva.
In fact, Himalaya
and Mena prayed so that they might have the goddess as their daughter.
Pleased with their prayers, the goddess arrived before Himalaya and Mena
and showed them her divine form. She also promised them that she would
be born as their daughter.
There were a
thousand names of the goddess that Himalaya recited in the course of his
prayers (one thousand and eight to be precise). These names are as
follows. For convenience, we have reproduced them in groups of ten names
(1) Shiva, Uma,
Paramashakti, Ananta, Nishkala, Amala, Shanta, Maheshvari, Nitya,
Achintya, Kevala, Shivatma, Paramatma, Anadi, Avyaya, Shuddha, Devatma,
(3) Achala, Eka,
Anekavibhagastha, Mayatita, Sunirmala, Mahamaheshvari, Satya, Mahadevi,
Chitshakti, Atilalasa, Nanda, Sarvvatmika, Vidya, Jyotirupa Amrita,
Sarvvapratishtha, Nivritti, Amritaprada. Vyomamurti, Vyomalaya,
Vyomadhara, Achyuta, Amara, Andinidhana, Amogha.
Kalakula, Svatahprathamaja, Amritanabhi, Atmasamshraya,
Praneshvarapriya, Mata, Mahamahishaghatini, Pranarupa,
Kalakara, Jyotsna, Sarvvakaryaniyantri, Sarvvabhuteshvari, Samsarayoni,
Sakala, Sarvvashaktisamudbhava, Samsarapota, Durvara.
Durasada, Pranashakti, Pranavidya, Yogini, Paramakala, Mahavibhuti,
Anadyanantavitava, Paramaghapakarshini, Svargasthityan Tarakarani,
Sudurvvachya, Duratyaya, Shabdayoni, Shabdamayi, Nadakhya, Nadvigraha,
Mahanada, Sanatani, Akashayoni, Yogastha, Mahayogeshvareshvari,
Mahamaya, Sudushpara, Mulaprakriti, Ishvari.
Pradhanapurushatita, Pradhanapurushatmika, Purana, Chinmayi,
Adipurusharupini, Bhutantavastha, Kutastha, Mahapurushasamjnita,
Anavachhinna, Pradhananu-Praveshinin, Kshetrajnashakti, Avyaktalakshana,
Malavarjjita, Anadimayasambinna, Prakritigraha, Mahamayasamutpanna,
Dheuva, Vyaktatmika, Krishna, Avyaktatmika, Rrakta, Shukla, Prasutika,
Nityaprasavadharmini, Sargapralayanirmukta, Srishtisthityantadharmini,
Brahmagarbha, Chaturvimsha, Padmanabha, Achyutatmika, Vaidyuti,
Ishvarapriya, Sarvvadhara, Maharupa, Sarvvaisharyasamannita, Vishvarupa,
Mahagarbha, Vishveshechhanuvartini, Mahlyasi, Brahmayoni.
Mahalakshmisamudbhava, Mahavimana-Madhyastha, Mahanidra, Atmahetuka,
Sarvva-Sadharani, Sukshma, Avidya, Paramarthiki, Anantarupa, Anantastha.
Devi, Anekakarasamsthana, Kalatrayavivarjita, Brahmajanma, Harimurti,
Brahmakhya, Brahmavishnu-Shivatmika, Brahmeshavishnujanani,
Prathamaja, Brahmi, Mahati, Brahmarupini. Vairagyaishvaryadharmatma.
Brahmamurti, Hridisthita, Apamyoni, Svayambhuti.
Tattvasambhava, Ishvarani, Sarvvani, Shankararddhasharirini, Bhavani,
Rudrani, Mahalakshmi, Ambika, Maheshvara-Samutpanna.
Bhuktimuktifalaprada, Sarvveshvari, Sarvvavandya, Nitamuditamanasa,
Brahmendro-Pendranmita, Shankarechhanuvartini, Ishvararddhasanagata,
Maheshvarapativrata, Sakridvibhata, Sarvvartisamudraparishoshini.
Himavatputri, Paramanadadyini, Gunadhya, Yogaja, Yogya, Jnanamurti,
Vikashini, Savitri, Kamala.
(22) Lakshmi, Shri,
Anantavakshahsthalasthita, Sarojanilaya, Ganga, Yoganidra, Asurardini
Sarasvati, Sarvvavidya, Jagajjveyashtha.
Vagdevi Varada, Avachya Kirti, Sarvvarthasadhika, Yogishvari,
Brahmavidya, Mahavidya, Sushobhana.
Atmavidya, Dharmavidya,Atmabhavita, Svaha, Vishvambhara, Siddhi, Svadha,
(25) Shruti, Niti,
Suniti, Sukriti, Madhavi, Naravahini, Pujya, Vibhavati, Soumya, Bhogini.
Shobha, Vamshakari, Lola, Manini, Parameshthini, Trailokyasundari,
Ramya, Sundari, Kamacharini.
Sattvastha, Mahamahisha-Mardini, Padmamala, Papahara,
Vichitramukutangada, Kanta, Chitrambaradhara, Divyabharana-Bhushita.
Vyomanilaya, Jagasrishtivivarddhini, Niyantri, Yantramadhyastha,
Nandini, Bhadrakalika, Adityavarna, Koumari.
Mayuravaravahana, Vrishasanagata, Gouri, Mahakali, Surarchita, Aditi,
Niyata, Roudri, Padmagarbhavivahana.
Lelihana, Mahasuravinashini, Mahafala, Anavadyangi, Kamarupa, Vibhavari,
Koushiki, Vichitraratnamukuta, Pranatarti-Prabhanjani.
Ratri, Tridashartivinashini, Vahurupa, Virupa, Surupa, Rupavarjita,
Bhaktartishamani, Bhavya, Bhavatapavinashini.
Nityavibhava, Nihsara, Nirapatrapa, Tapasvini, Samagiti,
Bhavankanilayalaya, Diksha, Vidyadhari, Dipta.
Manendrarinipatini, Sarvvatishayini, Vidya, Sarvvasiddhipradyini,
Sarvveshvarapriya, Tarkshi, Samudrantaravasini, Akalanka, Niradhara.
Niramaya, Kamadhenu, Vrihadgarbha, Dhimati, Mohanashini, Nihsankalpa,
Jvalamalasahasradhya, Devadevi, Manomayi, Mahabhagavati, Bhaga,
Paravara, Jnanajneya,Jaratita, Vedantavishaya, Gati, Dakshina, Dahana,
Vibhagajna, Mahamoha, Gariyasi, Sandhya, Brahmavidyashraya,
Vijankurasamudhbuti, Mahashakti, Mahamati, Kshanti.
(38) Prajna, Chiti,
Samvit, Mahabhogindra-Shayini, Vikriti, Shankari, Shanti,
Ganagandharvasevita, Vaishvanari, Mahashala.
Guhapriya, Maharatri, Shivananda, Shachi, Duhsvapnanashini, Ijya, Pujya,
Guhalvika, Gunotpatti, Mahapitha, Marutsuta, Havyavahantaragadi,
Havyavahasa-Mudhbhava, Jagadyoni, Jaganmata, Janmamrityujaratiga.
Mahavuddhimati, Purushantaravasini, Tarasvini, Samadhistha, Trinetra,
Divisamsthita, Sarvvendriyamanomata, Sarvvabhutahridisthita,
Sattvashuddhikari, Shuddhi, Malatrayavinashini, Jagatpriya, Jaganmurti,
Trimurti, Amritashraya, Nirashraya, Nirahara, Nirankushapododbhava.
Bhavini, Harini, Prabha, Unmilani, Sarvasaha, Sarvvapratyayasakshini,
Susoumya, Chandravadana, Tandavasaktamanasa.
Sativashuddhikari, Shuddhi, Malatrayavinashini, Jagatpriya, Jaganmurti,
Trimurti, Amritashya, Nirashraya, Nirahara, Nirankushapadodbhava.
Viochitrangi, Sragvini, Padmadharini, Paravaravidhanajna,
Mahapuushapurvaja, Vishveshvarapriya, Vidyut, Vidyujjihva, Jitashrama.
Sahaasrakshi, Sahasravadanatmaja, Sahasrarashmi, Sattvastha,
Maheshvarapadashraya, Kshalini, Mrinmayi, Vyapta, Padmavodhika.
Mahamayashraya, Manya, Mahadevamanorama, Vyomalakshmi, Simharatha,
Chekitana, Amitaprabha, Vireshvari, Vimanastha.
Mahamayashraya, Manya, Mahadevamanorama, Vyomalakshmi, Simharatha,
Chekitana, Amitaprabha, Vireshvari, Vimanastha.
Shokanashini, Anahata, Kundalini, Nalini, Padmabhasini, Sadananda,
Sadakriti, Vagdevata, Sarvvabhutashrayasthita.
Vishnushivagraja, Paragati, Kshobhika, Bandhika, Bhedya,
Bhedabhedavivarjita, Kalalita, Kalarani.
Brahmahridaya, Vyomashakti, Kriyashakti, Jamashakti, Abhinna,
Bhinnasamsthana, Vashini, Vamshakarini, Guhyashakti.
Sarvada, Sarvatomukhi, Bhagini, Bhagavatpatni, Sakala, Kalakarini,
Guharani, Prakriya, Yogamata, Ganga, Vishveshareshvari, Kapila, Akapila,
Punya, Pushkarini, Bhoktri, Puranadarapurahsara, Poshani,
Paramaishvaryabhutida, Bhutibhushana, Panchabrahmasamutpatti.
Paramarthavigraha, Dharmodaya, Bhanumati, Yogijneya, Manojava, Manorama,
Manoraska, Tapasi, Vadarupini, Vedashakti.
Vedavidyaprakashini, Yogeshvareshvari, Mata, Mahashakti, Manomayi, ,
Viyanmurti, Vidyunmala, Vihayasi.
Surabhi, Vidya, Nandini, Nandivallabha, Bharati, Paramananda,
Paraparavibhedika, Sarvvapraharanopeta, Kamya.
Kameshvareshvari, Achintya, Anantavibhava, Bhulekha, Kanakaprabha,
Kushmandi, Dhanaratnadhya, Sugandha, Gandhadayini, Trivikramapadodbhuta.
Shivodaya, Sudurlabla, Dhanadhyaksha, Dhanya, Pingalalochana, Shanti,
Prabhavati, Dipti, Pankajayatalochana.
Hritamalodbhuta, Gomata, Ranapriya, Satkriya, Girisha, Shuddhi,
Nityapushta, Nirantara, Durga.
Chandi, Charichitanga, Suvigraha, Hiranyavarna, Jagati,
Jagadyantrapravartika, Sarada, Mandaradrinivasa, Svarnamalini.
Ratnagarbha, Pushti, Vishvapramathini, Padmanana, Padmanibha,
Nityatushta, Amritodbhava, Dhunvati, Dushprakampa.
Drishadvati, Mahendrabhagini, Soumya, Varenya, Varadayika, Kalyani,
Kamalavasa, Panchachuda, Varaprada.
Amareshvari, Vandhya, Durjjaya, Duratikrama, Kalaratri, Mahabega,
Virabhadrapriya, Hita, Bhadrakali.
Bhaktamangaladayini, Karala, Pingalakara, Kamabheda, Mahasvana,
Yashasvini, Yashoda, Shadadhvaparivartika, Shankhini.
Sankhya, Samkhyayogapravartika, Chaitra, Samvatsararuda, Jagatsampurani,
Indraja, Shumbhari, Khechari, Khastha.
Kalipriya, Khagadhvaja, Khagaruda, Varahi, Pugamalini,
Aishvaryapadmanilaya, Virakta, Garudasana, Jayanti.
Shankareshtaganagrani, Samyastha, Sankalpasiddha, Sarvvavijnandayini,
Kalikalkavihantrui, Guhyanpanishaduttama, Nishtha, Drishti.
(68) Smriti, Vyapi,
Pushti, Tushti, Kriyavati, Vishvamareshvasreshana, Bhukti, Mukti, Shiva,
Lohitasarpamala, Bhisani, Naramalini, Anantashayana, Ananta,
Naranarayanodbhava, Nrisimhi, Daityamathini, Shankachakragadadhara,
Sankarshanasamutpatti, Padasamshrava, Mahajvala, Mahabhuti, Sumurti,
Sarvvakamadhuka, Suprabha, Sustani, Souri, Dharmakamarthamokshada.
Bhrumadhyanilaya, Purva, Puranapurusharani, Mahavibhutida, Madhya,
Sarojanayana, Sama, Anadya, Nilotpaladalaprabha, Asthadashabhuja.
Sarvvashaktyasanaruda, Dharmadharmavivarjita, Vairagyajnananirata,
Niraloka, Nirindriya, Vichitragahanadhara, Shvashvatasthanavasini,
Sthaneshvari, Nirananda, Trishulavaradharini.
Asheshadevatamurti, Devatavaradevata, Ganambika, Giriputri,
Nishumbhavinipatini, Avarna, Varnarahita, Trivarna, Jivasambhava,
Shankari, Shantamanasa, Agotra, Gomati, Goptri, Guhyarupa, Gunottara,
Gouni, Ganeshvaranamaskrita, Satyabhama, Satyasandha, Trisandhya,
Sandhivarjita, Sarvvavadashraya, Samkhya, Samkhyayogasamudbhava.
Aprameyakhya, Shunya, Suddakulodbhava, Vindunadasamutpatti, Shambhuvasa,
Shashiprabha, Pishanga, Bhedarahita, Manojna.
Mahashri, Shrisamutapatti, Tamohparepratishthita, Tritattvamata,
Trividha, Susukshmapadasamshraya, Shantyatita, Malatita, Nirvikara.
Shivakhya, Chittanilaya, Kashyapi, Shivajnanasvarupini,
Daityadanavanirmukhi, Kalakarnika, Shastrayoni, Kriyamurti,
Narodbhuti, Koumudi, Lingadharini, Karmuki, Kalita, Bhava,
Paravaravibhutida, Vadava, Pararddhajatamahima.
Subhadra, Devaki, Sita, Manasvini, Vedavedangaparaga, Manyumata,
Mahamanyusamundbhava, Amanyu, Amritasvada.
Purushtuta, Ashouchya, Bhinnavishaya, Hiranyarajatapriya, Hiranyarajani,
Haimi, Hemabharanabhushita, Vibhrajamana, Durjneya.
Jyotishtomafalaprada, Mahnidrasamudbhyuti, Anidra, Satyadevata, Dirgha,
Kakudmini, Hridya, Shantida, Shantivarddhini, Lakshyadishaktijanani.
Shaktichakrapravartika, Trishaktijanani, Janya, Shadurmiparivarjita,
Sudhama, Karmakarani, Yugantadahanatmika, Sankarshini, Jagaddhatri,
Aindri, Trailokyanamita, Vaishnavi, Parameshvari, Pradyumnadayita,
Datri, Yugmadrishti, Trilochana, Madotkata.
Prachanda, Chandavikrama, Vrishavesha, Vishyanmatra,
Vindhyaparvatavasini, Himavanmerunilaya, Kailasagirivasini,
Vedavedya, Vratasnata, Brahmashailanivasini, Virabhadrapraja, Vira,
Siddha, Mahakamasamudbhava, Vidyanadharanirakriti.
Haranti, Pavani, Poshani, Kala, Matrika, Manmathodbhuta, Varija,
Vani, Vinavadanatatpara, Sevita, Sevika, Sevya, Garudatmati, Arundhati,
Manadayini, Vasuprada, Vasumati, Vasudhara, Vasundhara, Dharadhara,
Vararoha, Characharasahsrada, Shrifala.
Shrisha, Shrinivasa, Shivapriya, Shridhari, Shrikari, Kalya,
Shridhararddhasharirini, Anantadrishti, Akshudra.
Dhanadapriya, Daityasamuhaniyantri, Simhika, Simhavahana, Suvarchala,
Sushroni, Sukirti, Chhinnasamshaya, Rasajna.
(92) Rasada, Rama,
Lelihana, Amritasrava, Nityodita, Svayamjyotih, Utsuka, Mritajivani,
Mangala, Mala, Nirmala, Malaharini, Gandharvi, Garudi, Chandri,
Bhrikutikutilanana, Karnikarakara, Kakshya, Kamsapranapaharini,
Yugandhara, Yugavarta, Trisandhya, Harshavardhini, Pratyakshadevata.
Divyagandhathivasana, Shakrasanagata, Shakri, Sadhya, Charusharasana,
Ishta, Vishishta, Shishteshta, Shishtashishtaprapujita.
Shatavarta, Vinata, Surabhi, Sura, Surendramata, Sudyumna, Sushumna,
Nivritti, Jnanaparaga, Dharmashastrarthakushala, Dharmajna,
Dharmavahana, Dharmadharmavinirmatri, Dharmikamangalaprada, Dharmamayi,
Vishvadharmini, Dharmantara, Dharmamayi, Dharmapurva, Dhanavaha,
Dharmopadeshtri, Dharmaksha, Dharmagamya, Dharadhara.
Mahadevaikasakshini, Sadashiva, Vishaynmurti, Vedamurti, Amurtika,
Parameshvari, Shobha, Vishala, Prasannavadana, Hrishtatma.
This completes the
list of the one thousand names given to the goddess. Although Himalaya
had used on thousand and eight names in the course of his prayers, ten
of these names are missing in the list. You will also have noticed that
a few of the names occur more than once.
It is hoped that
you have not forgotten that Svayambhuva Manu and his wife Shatarupa had
a son named Uttanapada. Uttanapada’s brother was Priyavarta. Dhruva was
Uttanapada’s son. Dhruva was so devoted to Vishnu that Vishnu earmarked
for him a place in the heaven known as Dhruvaloka. (Dhruva became the
Pole Star. The complete story of Dhruva and his tapasya in given in the
Uttanapada’s line was born Chakshusha. He became a manu. (Chakshusha was
the sixth Manu of the present kalpa). In Chakshusha Manu’s line was born
Vena, and Vena’s son was Prithu. Prithu milked the earth and obtained
foodgrains on which people can survive. That is the reason why the earth
is known as prithivi. (Prithu’s story is given in several Puranas, in
addition to the Mahabharata and the Harivamsha).
Prithu’s son was
Shikhandi and Shikhandi’s son was Sushila. Sushila was a very religious
person. He faithfully studied the Vedas and visited several places of
pilgrimage. His travels eventually brought him to the Himalayas, through
which the sacred river Mandakini flowed. Near the banks of the river was
a beautiful hermitage. It was there that Sushila began to pray to Shiva.
While Sushila was thus praying, a sage named Shvetashvatara arrived. The
sage’s body was lean with tapasya and he was smeared with ashes.
praying to Shiva and worshipped the sage. ”I am indeed fortunate that I
have met you,” he told Shvetashvatara. “Please make me your disciple and
teach me all that there is to know.”
The sage agreed. He
taught Sushila and several other disciples the knowledge of the shastras
Shikhandi had a
brother named Havirddhana. Havirddhana’s son was Prachinavarhi. He
married Savarna, the daughter of the ocean, and had ten sons. These sons
were known as the Prachetas. The Prachetas were devoted to Vishnu and
prayed to Vishnu for several years. (The Vishnu Purana states that they
meditated for ten thousand years under the ocean.) All ten Prachetas
married Marisha and Daksha was born as a result of this marriage.
(Marisha’s story is given in the Vishnu Purana.) It was this Daksha who
had earlier been born as Brahma’s son. Because he quarrelled with Shiva,
Shiva cursed Daksha that he would be born as the son of the Prachetas.
“Tell us the story
of Daksha,” the sages requested Lomaharshana.
(The Prachetas are
not to be confused with a sage named Pracheta. The sage Pracheta was
Brahma’s son, as per the Brahmavaivarta Purana.)
Daksha was Brahma’s
son and had a daughter named Sati. Sati was married to Shiva. Daksha was
thus Shiva’s father-in-law.
Once Daksha came to
visit his son-in-law. But although Shiva worshipped him with all due
respect. Daksha felt that he had been slighted. Subsequently, when Sati
went to visit her father, Daksha severely reprimanded her.
“Your husband is
worse than useless,” he told his daughter. “My other sons-in-law are far
superior to him. You are not welcome in my house. Return to your
Sati could not bear
to hear this abuse of her husband and immolated herself. She was later
born as Parvati, the daughter of Himavana (the Himalayas) and married
Shiva was furious
to learn that Sati had died. He visited Daksha and cursed him that he
would be born on earth as the son of a kshatriya. It was thus that
Daksha had been born as the son of the Prachetas.
(Dakhsa’s story is
full of inconsistencies in the Puranas. There is an account of a yajna
that Daksha performed. Shiva either destroyed this yajna himself, or had
it destroyed by Virabhadra. But which Daksha performed this yajna, the
one who was the son of Brahma or the one who was the son of Prachetas?
The Kurma Purana suggests that it was the son of the Prachetas who
performed this ceremony. The more customary account, such as that in the
Bhagavata Purana, is that it was Brahma’s son who performed the
sacrifice. Daksha was angered at Shiva because, on one particular
occasion, Shiva did not stand up to show him respect, although Daksha
happened to be Shiva’s father-in-law. Daksha therefore organised a yajna
to which he did not invite Shiva. Sati went to the ceremony uninvited,
and immolated herself when her father started criticise her husband.
Hearing of Sati’s death, Shiva destroyed the yajna. He also cursed
Daksha that Daksha would have to be born as the son of the Prachetas.)
To return to the
account of the Kurma Purana, the Daksha, who was the son of the
Prachetas, organised a yajna. All the gods and sages were invited to
this ceremony. But as a result of Daksha’s earlier enmity with his
son-in-law, Shiva was not invited.
There was a sage
named Dadhichi who protested at this slight to Shiva. “How can you have
a religious ceremony without inviting Shiva?” he told Daksha.
“Shiva is a
worthless fellow,” replied Daksha. “He is not fit to be worshipped
together with the other gods. he wears skulls and destroys all that is
created. How can he be treated as an equal of the great Vishnu, the
preserver of all that one can see? My yajna is dedicated to Vishnu. It
is not meant for the likes of Shiva.”
Dadhichi tried to
persuade Daksha that Shiva should not be ignored, but Daksha was in no
mood to listen. Dadhichi refused to take part in such a yajna and
assured Daksha that his ceremony would not be successfully completed. He
also cursed the other sages, who had sided with Daksha, that they would
go to hell and would deviate from the path laid down in the Vedas. (The
Mahabharata also records Dadhichi’s protest. According to the
Mahabharata, Dadhichi was devoted to Shiva.)
Daksha went ahead
with his yajna. The other gods, including Vishnu, came to attend the
got to know about the yajna and told Shiva, “How can there be a ceremony
at which you are not invited? Although Daksha used to be my father in my
earlier life, this evil act of his should not be condoned. Please
destroy the ceremony.”
(If one goes by the
more customary account, the question of Parvati’s asking Shiva to
destroy the yajna does not arise. Sati died on the occasion of the
ceremony and it was the grief of Sati’s death that led Shiva to exact
vengeance. This happened much before Parvati was born as the daughter of
Parvati’s bidding, Shiva created a demon named Virabhadra. Virabhadra
had a thousand heads, a thousand feet, a thousand eyes and a thousand
arms. His body shone with radiance like the sun at the time of
destruction. The thousand arms held all sorts of weapons in them.
“What are my
orders?” Virabhadra asked Shiva.
“Go and destroy
Daksha’s yajna,” was the reply.
a bull and set out for Daksha’s house. He created thousands and
thousands of demons who would aid him in the task of destruction. These
demons were armed with spears, tridents, maces, clubs and stones.
Parvati also created a goddess named Bhadrakali who would help
This strange army
arrived at the place where the yajna was being held and said, “We are
Shiva’s followers. We have come to receive Shiva’s share of the
“No offerings have
been earmarked for Shiva,” replied the gods and the sages. “He has not
even been invited to the sacrifice.
These words angered
Virabhadra and he began his task of destruction. His companions uprooted
the scaffoldings that had been erected on the occasion of the sacrifice.
The sacrificial horse was flung into the waters of the river Ganga.
(This was an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) that was being performed
on the banks of the river Ganga.
hold of Bhaga (identified as the sun-god Surya) and tore out his eyes.
He smashed the teeth of the god Pusha (also identified as another
manifestation of the sun-god Surya). As for the moon-god Chandra,
Virabhadra gave him a resounding kick and sent him reeling. The fire-god
Agni had his arms and tongue sliced off by Virabhadra’s companions. The
sages were kicked and boxed.
Vishnu himself came
to intervene and Virabhadra began to fight with Vishnu.
Vishnu has a
wonderful weapon named sudarshana chakra (a bladed-discuss) and he
hurled this at Virabhadra. But Virabhadra easily repelled this weapon
with his arrows. Vishnu is carried by Garuda, king of the birds. Garuda
attacked Virabhadra, but so fierce was Virabhadra, that Garuda had to
flee. The entire universe marvelled to see that Virabhadra could thus
vanquish Vishnu and Garuda.
Brahma now arrived
and sought to put an end to the fighting. He started to pray to Shiva
and Shiva and Parvati arrived on the scene. The assembled gods and sages
also began to pray to Shiva and Parvati. Parvati was moved to pity by
“These gods and
sages have now sought refuge with you,” she told Shiva. “Please pardon
them their sins.”
Shiva. “You have my blessing snow. But please remember that one cannot
have a religious ceremony without I being worshipped.”
The gods and the
sages realised that Shiva was no different from Vishnu. They were really
one and the same, different manifestations of the same universal force.
When Daksha had
earlier been born as the son of Brahma, he had married Asikli, the
daughter of Virana. (There is a minor contradiction here as well.
Earlier, the Kurma Purana has stated that Daksha’s wife was Prasuti. It
is of course possible that Prasuti and Asikli were different names for
the same individual.)
Daksha and Asikli
had one thousand sons. But the sage Narada had persuaded these sons to
become hermits, disinterested in worldly pursuits. (The Vishnu Purana
given a more complete account. First, five thousand sons named the
Haryashvas had been born and Narada had persuaded these sons to become
hermits. Next, one thousand sons named the Shavalashvas had been born
and these had also become hermits at Narada’s instigation. Thereafter,
sixty daughters had been born.)
To return to the
account of Kurma Purana, Daksha and Asikli had had sixty daughters had
been married to Dharma, Brahma’s son. (There is again a contradiction.
In the section on creation, the Kurma Purana had stated that thirteen
daughters had been married to Dharma.) The ten daughters who had been
married to Dharma were Marutvati, Vasu, Yami, Lamba, Bhanu, Arundhati,
Sankalpa, Muhurta, Sadhya and Vishva. Vishva’s sons were the gods known
as the vishvadevas, Sadhya’s sons the gods known as the sadhyas,
Marutvati’s sons the gods known as the bhanus. (More usually, the
Puranas have a completely different account of the birth of the maruts.
They were born as the sons of Diti, Kashyapa’s wife.) Muhurta gave birth
to time, Lamba to cattle (ghosha), Yami to snakes (nagas), Arundhati to
all the objects (vishaya) on earth and Sankalpa to resolution
Daksha’s daughters had been married to the sage Kashyapa. Their names
were Aditi, Diti, Arishta, Danu, Surasa, Khasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra,
Krodhavasha, Ira, Kadru and Muni. The twelve gods, known as the adityas,
were born as the sons of Aditi. Their names were Amsha, Dhata, Bhaga,
Tvashta, Mitra, Varuna, Aryama, Vivasvana, Savita, Pusha, Amshumana and
Danu’s sons were
demons (danavas). Chief among them were Tara, Shambara, Kapila,
Shankara, Svarbhanu and Vrishaparva. (Some Puranas mention forty such
Surasa gave birth
to the gandharvas. (More usually, it is stated that Surasa was the
mother of the snakes (nagas).)
Aristha’s sons were
thousands and thousands of snakes (sarpas).
Kadru’s sons were
also snakes (nagas).
were the ancestors of the birds. Surabhi gave birth to cows and
buffaloes and Ira to trees and herbs.
Khasa was the
mother of yakshas (demi-gods), Muni of apsaras and Krodhavasha of
Vinata had two sons
named Garuda and Aruna. These two sons performed very difficult tapasya.
Garuda pleased Vishnu and obtained the boon that he would carry Vishnu
around. Aruna pleased Shiva and obtained the boon that he would become
the sun’s charioteer. (The story of the rivalry between Vinata and Kadru
and their respective offspring is given in the Bhagavata and Matsya
This leaves Diti.
She had two sons named Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. There two sons
were demons and their children came to be known as the daityas.
Hiranyakashipu was elder to Hiranyaksha. (The Puranas do not agree on
this. In some Puranas, Hiranyaksha is referred to as the elder brother.)
pleased Brahma through his prayers. As a result of the boon that he
received from Brahma, he became invisible and started to oppress the
world. He drove the gods out of heaven.
The gods and the
sages went to Brahma to persuade him to do something about
“I cannot really
help you,” said Brahma. “Go to the northern shores of the great ocean
and pray to Vishnu there. I will accompany you. It is Vishnu alone who
can find a solution.”
Brahma led the gods
and the sages to the shores of the great ocean and started to pray to
before them. “Why have all of you come here?” he asked. “What do you
Hiranyakashipu,” replied the gods and the sages. “He is oppressing the
world thanks to a boon received from Brahma. Because of the boon, he can
only be killed by you. Please kill him and save the universe.”
Vishnu created a
being out of his body. This being was as gigantic as Mount Sumeru and
held a lotus (padma), a conch-shell (shankha) and a mace (gada) in his
hands. “Go and kill Hiranyakashipu,” Vishnu instructed the being.
The being thereupon
ascended Garuda and left for Hiranyakashipu’s capital. His roars made
the ramparts of the city quake.
four sons named Prahlada, Anuhrada, Samhrada and Hrada. (The more usual
names are Prahlada, Anuhlada, Samhlada and Hlada.) Accompanied by
Hirayakashipu’s demon soldiers, these four sons came out to fight with
the being easily repelled all of these. The four princes then unleashed
divine weapons on the being. Prahlada used brahmastra, Anuhrada
vaishnavastra, Samhrada koumarastra and Hrada agneyastra. But these
divine weapons could do the wonderful being no harm. He merely picked up
the princes and flung them far away.
On seeing that his
sons had thus been disposed of, Hiranyakashipu came to fight. He gave
the being a resounding kick on his chest and the creature fled in pain
Vishnu now realised
that he would have to take care of Hiranyakashipu himself. He adopted
the form of a being who was a half-man and half-lion. Since nara means
man and simha means lion, this came to be known as the narasimha
incarnation (avatara) of Vishnu.
“Go and kill this
peculiar creature,” Hiranyakashipu instructed Prahrada.
Prahrada and his
brothers tried to fight with Vishnu, but were defeated easily.
Hiranyakashipu now sent his brother Hiranyakasha to fight. Hiranyakasha
used several weapons on Vishnu, including the diving weapon known as
pashupata. But these weapons could do Vishnu no harm.
had realised that this being could be none other than Vishnu. He started
to pray to Vishnu. He requested his brothers, uncle and father not to
fight with Vishnu. But Hiranyakashipu’s chest with his claws and thereby
killed him. He also killed Anuhrada, Samhrada and Hrada.
(A fairly common
story in the Puranas, such as the Vishnu Purana, is the story of
Prahlada. Despite being Hiranyakashipu’s son, Prahlada was devoted to
Vishnu from his childhood. Hiranyakashipu had no desire to have a son
who was devoted to Vishnu and did his level best to kill Prahlada. But
Prahlada was protected by Vishnu and survived all these attempts. In the
final incident, narasimha appeared while Hiranyakashipu was arguing with
Prahlada and killed the demon-king. Vishnu then crowned Prahlada king in
Hiranyakashipu’s place. There was no question of Hiranyaksha becoming
king after Hiranyakashipu. In the more common account, Hiranyaksha was
the elder brother and had already been killed by Vishnu in his boar
(varaha) incarnation. It was Hiranyakasha’s death that led to
Hiranyakashipu’s hatred of Vishnu. There is thus some variance between
this more common account and that related by the Kurma Purana.)
Hiranyakashipu died, Hiranyaksha became the king of the demons.
promptly began to oppress the world. He defeated the gods and drove them
out of heaven. He also took the earth down to the underworld. The gods
again went to Brahma in search of a solution and Brahma took them to
Vishnu. They prayed to Vishnu so that Hiranyaksha might be killed.
Vishnu adopted the
form of a boar and killed Hiranyaksha. He also raised the earth up to
its rightful place. (This was the story that was alluded to when the
Kurma Purana mentioned Vishnu’s boar incarnation.)
was killed, Prahlada became the king of demons. Initially, he ruled
well. He worshipped Vishnu and performed yajnas. The kingdom thrived and
prospered. But on one occasion, Prahrada forgot to worship a brahmana
The brahmana was
furious as he thought that Prahrada had done this knowingly. “You have
dared to ignore me because you thank that you are blessed by Vishnu,”
said the brahmana. “I curse you that you will forget all about Vishnu.
Your delusions will make you fight with Vishnu and you will lose all
As a result of the
brahmana’s curse, Prahrada deviated from the righteous path. He ignored
the brahmanas and the Vedas. He desired to have revenge on Vishnu for
having killed his father and uncle. Prahlada fought a long and bitter
war with Vishnu. When he was eventually defeated by Vishnu, he realised
the folly of his evil ways and sought refuge with Vishnu.
death, Hiranyaksha’s son Andhaka became the king of the demons.
Many years ago,
there was a terrible drought on earth. There was no food to be had and
There were several
sages who lived in the forest, and they too, suffered from a lack of
Goutama was a very
powerful sage and he had a hermitage in the forest. Such were the powers
that Goutama had that it never stopped raining in his hermitage. There
was no famine there and plenty of food was to be had. The other sages
therefore went to Goutama’s hermitage and begged him to provide them
with food and shelter. This request Goutama readily agreed to, and the
sages lived there happily.
After twelve years
had passed, it began to rain again. The drought had passed and
foodgrains started to grow. The sages no begged their leave of Goutama.
“Stay for a few
more days,” said Goutama. “Be my guests and bless my household.”
The sages tarried,
but they were jealous of Goutama and his powers. They therefore plotted
to bring about Goutama’s downfall. With their own powers, they created a
black calf. This calf was nothing but an illusion. But having created
it, the sages sent it to Goutama. Goutama found the calf wandering
around and decided to take it to his cowshed. But as soon as he touched
the calf, the calf seemed to die. All this was because of the illusion,
but Goutama did not know this. He was thunderstruck at having killed a
“You are evil, you
have killed a cow,” the sages told Goutama. “It would be a sin to remain
as your guest. We are leaving.”
By then, Goutama
had got to know that the calf had been an illusion. He was extremely
angry with the sages and cursed them, “because you have been evil, you
have deviate from the path laid down by the Vedas. You will rot in hell
and will have to be born several times to be freed of your sins.”
The sages started
to pray to Vishnu and Shiva. They wished that their sins might be
“What shall we do
with these sages?” Shiva asked Vishnu. “Shall we pardon them? They are
praying for deliverance.”
Vishnu. “Those who do not follow what is laid down in the Vedas will
surely rot in hell. But since they are not permitted to follow the
sacred shastras, let us compose some other shastras for them. They will
follow those evil shastras, rot in hell and be born on earth several
times. That is their penance.”
To delude the
sages, Shiva himself pretended to be a great religious teacher. He
preached evil ways and the stupid brahmanas began to follow what he
While Shiva was
gone, he left his companion Nandi to look after his household. He also
gave Vishnu the overall responsibility of ensuring that all was well
with Parvati and the gods and the sages.
Shiva was away, Andhaka thought that this was the opportune moment for
abducting Parvati. He found that Nandi stood guard at the entrance to
Shiva’s house and began to fight with Nandi. Nandi struck Andhaka on the
chest with a trident.
Andhaka and he created a thousand other demons who were just like him in
appearance. This army of demons defeated Nandi and the gods. Nandi did
not know what to do and started to pray to Vishnu. Vishnu created some
goddesses from his body and these goddesses killed the demon soldiers.
Andhaka also fled.
After twelve years
had passed, Shiva returned and learnt what had transpired.
By then, Andhaka
had recovered and he returned, determined in his bid to abduct Parvati.
Both Shiva and Vishnu started to fight with Andhaka’s army.
Vishnu told Shiva,
“Kill this demon. No one but you can kill Andhaka. Please kill the demon
and deliver the universe.”
Andhaka’s chest with a trident. He held the trident aloft, with Andhaka
transfixed to one of its prongs. And with his trident held aloft, Shiva
began to dance.
But all the evil
had deserted Andhaka’s body and mind as soon as he had been pierced by
Shiva’s trident. He started to pray to Shiva. These prayers pleased
He lowered the
trident and told Andhaka, “I am pleased with your prayers. My companions
are known as the ganas. Stay by my side and be a ganapati, that is, a
lord over the ganas. You will be Nandi’s companion.”
With Andhaka thus
taken care of, Prahrada’s son Virochana became the king of the demons.
He ruled his kingdom well.
There was a sage
named Sanatakumara who once went to visit Virochana. Virochana was
delighted to see the sage and Sanatakumara instructed Virochana on the
true nature of the universe. These teachings so impressed Virochana that
he no longer had any desire to be a king. He went off to meditate, after
having crowned his son, Vali, as the king of the demons.
Vali was a good and
righteous king. He ruled well and observed religious rites faithfully.
But he defeated Indra and the other gods and won over heaven from them.
Indra and the other gods started to pray to Vishnu for deliverance.
The mother of all
the gods was Aditi and she was despondent at seeing her children suffer
thus. She too, started to pray to Vishnu. Stirred by these prayers,
Vishnu appeared before Aditi.
“What boon do you
desire?” he asked.
“Please grant me
the boon that you will be born as my son.” replied Aditi. “And as my
son, you will take care of Vali.”
Vishnu granted the
boon and was born as Aditi’s son. As Aditi’s son, Vishnu studied the
Vedas under the sage Bharadvaja.
arranged a yajna and Vishnu came to attend the ceremony in the form of a
dwarf (vamana). (In more usual accounts, such as the Bhagavata Purana,
Vishnu was born as a dwarf.)
Vali was not going
to refuse anything to anyone on the occasion of the sacrifice. As soon
as he saw the dwarf, he worshipped him and said, “I am fortunate that
you have come to attend my ceremony. Please tell me what I can do for
“Grant me as much
of land as can be covered in three of my footsteps,” replied the dwarf.
This boon Vali granted. The dwarf
immediately assumed a gigantic form. With one footstep, Vishnu covered
the entire earth. With a second, he covered the sky. And with the third
and final footstep, he covered heaven. The entire universe is inside and
egg (anda) and outside the egg there is water. Vishnu’s foot cracked the
shell of the egg and some of the water that was outside, poured in. This
water began to flow through the sky and became the heavenly Ganga. (The
story of the heavenly Ganga (identified as the Milky Way) descending to
earth is a separate story. The story of Ganga being born from Vishnu’s
body is given in the Brahmavaivarta Purana.)
all the land that was available, Vishnu resumed his form of a dwarf.
“You have now
donated to me all the three worlds,” he told Vali. “Where will you
“I seek refuge with
you,” was Vali’s answer.
instructed Vali to go and live in the underworld. As for heaven, it was
restored to Indra.
This is the story
of Vishnu’s dwarf (vamana) incarnation.
Vali had a hundred
sons, the eldest among whom was Vana. Vana was devoted to Shiva. He was
also extremely powerful. He defeated Indra and conquered the three
Indra and the other
gods went to Shiva. “Your devotee, Vana is oppressing us,” they told
Shiva. “Please take care of him.”
Shiva took up a
single arrow and with this, he completely burnt up Vana’s city.
(This is deviation
from the usual account of the Puranas, such as the Vishnu Purana or the
Bhagavata Purana. In those accounts, Krishna fought with Vana and
defeated him, although Shiva fought on Vana’s side. It was because of
Krishna’s blessings that Vana became Shiva’s companion. Vana’s capital
was named Shonitapura.)
When Vana’s city
was being burnt up, Vana emerged and started to pray to Shiva’s linga
(image of Shiva). Pleased at Vana’s prayers, Shiva made Vana a ganapati.
Thus, Vana came to be Shiva’s constant companion.
Vivasvana, was the son of Kashyapa and Aditi. He had four wives, Samjna,
Rajni, Prabha and Chhaya.
Samjna’s son was
Vaivasvata Manu. Rajni’s children were Yama, yamuna and Revanta.
Savarni, Shani, Tapati and Vishti were Chhaya’s children and Prabha’s
son was Prabhata.
(The names do not
tally across the Puranas. For example, in the Markandeya Purana, the sun
had only two wives, Samjna and Chhaya. Yama and Yamuna were also the
children of Samjna.)
Vaivasvata Manu had
nine sons. Their names were Ikshvaku, Nabhaga, Arishta, Karusha and
Prishadhra. Manu also had a daughter named Ila, from whom the lunar
Ikshvaku’s son was
Vikukshi and this was the line of Kakutstha. In this line was born Rama,
of Ramayana fame.
The names of
several kings of the solar dynasty are given. But these we will not
reproduce, as they are merely a catalog of names.
Budha was the son
of the moon-god Chandra. Budha married Ila and they had a son named
the apsara Urvashi and they had six sons. One of these sons was Ayu and
amongst Ayu’s descendants was a king named Yayati.
Yayati had two
wives. The first was Devayani, daughter of Shukracharya, the preceptor
of the demons. The second wife was named Sharmishtha and she was the
daughter of Vrishaparva, the king of the danavas. Yayati and Devayani
had two sons, Yadu and Tursavu. Yayati and Sharmishtha had three sons,
Druhya, Anu and Puru. When it became time for Yayati to retire to the
forest, he gave puru the bulk of the kingdom and Puru’s descendants came
to be known as the Pauravas. Yadu was given some land towards the
south-west and his descendants were the Yadavas. Turvasu ruled to the
south-east, Druhya to the west and Anu to the north.
One of Yadu’s
descendants was the king Kritavirya and Kritavirya’s son became famous
as Kartavirya Arjuna. he had a thousand arms and was the most skilled of
fighters. He eventually met his death at the hands of Parashurama.
had several hundred sons. But the five most important ones were Shura,
Shurasena, Krishna, Dhrishna and Jayadvaja. Jayadvaja was devoted to
Vishnu, but his brothers were more inclined towards the worship of
The four brothers
told Jayadhvaja. “Stop worshipping Vishnu. Our father was a devotee of
Shiva’s and it is our duty to follow the example set by our father. Let
us worship Shiva.”
“It is my duty to
worship Vishnu,” replied Jayadhvaja. “Vishnu is the lord of everything,
he is the preserver. How can I do otherwise?”
debated about the virtues of worshipping Shiva vis-a-vis Vishnu, but
could arrive at no consensus. They therefore decided to seek the advice
of the seven great sages (saptarshi), chief amongst whom was Vashistha.
Vashishtha told the
brothers, “One worships the god that one chooses, there are no rules in
this regard. All gods yield the desired fruit, if properly worshipped.
To the extent that there are rules, there are as follows. Kings worship
Vishnu and Indra; brahmanas worship Agni, Aditya, Brahma and Shiva; the
gods worship Vishnu; the demons worship Shiva; the yakshas and
gandharvas worship Chandra; the sages worship Brahma and Shiva; and
women worship Parvati. But for humans, the best way is to realise that
Shiva is no different from Vishnu and that Shiva and Vishnu should
therefore be worshipped simultaneously.”
The Kurma Purana
also gives the names of several kings belongings to the lunar dynasty.
But these we will gloss over, as they are merely only a catalogue of
There used to be a
king named Durjaya. He was learned in the shastras and a good king. His
wife was a beautiful and good woman.
One day, King
Durjaya went to the banks of the river Kalindi. There he met the apsara
Urvashi and fell in love with her. He married Urvashi and lived with her
for many years.
After several years
had passed, Durjaya remembered his kingdom and wife. He told Urvashi,
“Please let me return to my home now.”
“Not yet, king,”
replied Urvashi. “Please stay with me for one more year.”
“I will return as
soon as I have visited my kingdom,” said Durjaya. “I promise you that I
will not tarry there. Therefore, let me return.”
“I will let you go
on condition that you do not live as the husband of any other woman,”
Durjaya agreed to
this condition and returned home. But because of the word that he had
given Urvashi, he stayed away from his wife and did not venture near
her. His wife tried to find out what the matter was, but Durjaya would
not reply. Finally, the queen got to know what Durjaya had done and
realised that her husband had committed a sin. He should not have
married Urvashi while his wife was still alive. The queen therefore told
Durjaya, “You have sinned. You must perform penance. That is the sort of
action that befits a king, not this despondency that you have become
King Durjaya went
and met the sage Kanva to ascertain what sort of penance should be
performed for the sin that he had committed. Kanva advised him to go to
the Himalayas and meditate.
While Durjaya was
going to the Himalayas, he met a gandharva king. The gandharva king wore
a divine garland, Durjaya remembered Urvashi. He thought that the
garland was a fitting adornment for no one but Urvashi. He began to
fight with the gandharva over the possession of the garland. Durjaya
managed to defeat the gandharva king and obtain the garland. He
immediately hastened to banks of the river Kalindi, because he thought
that he might find Urvashi there. But Urvashi was not to be found, and
Durjaya roamed the world in search of her.
arrived in the region of Mount Sumeru. The lake Manasa is located there.
And by the shores of the lake, Durjaya found Urvashi. He gave the apsara
the garland and lived happily with her for some time.
After a few days
had passed, Urvashi asked Durjaya, “King please tell me what transpired
when you went home.”
told Urvashi about the conversation that he had with his wife and about
what the sage Kanva had asked him to do.
Urvashi was alarmed
when she heard the king’s account. “What have you done?” she exclaimed.
“Hasten back, otherwise Kanva and your wife will curse the two of us.”
But Durjaya was so
smitten with love for Urvashi that he refused to listen to Urvashi’s
entreaties. Urvashi therefore made herself very ugly. This repelled
Durjaya, and he gave Urvashi up.
For twelve years
Durjaya performed difficult tapasya, living only on fruits and roots.
For another twelve years, he lived only on air. After having thus
meditated for twenty-four years, Durjaya went to Kanva’s hermitage and
told the sage all that he had done.
“I am pleased that
you have realised the folly of your ways and have performed tapasya,”
said Kanva. “But that alone is not enough. Your sin has been too severe.
Go to the city of Varanasi and live there. Shiva is ever-present in that
city and he will pardon all your sins.”
Durjaya did this
and was pardoned all his sins. Such are the benefits of praying to Shiva
and such are the virtues of the wonderful city of Varanasi.
Krishna was the
eight incarnation of Vishnu and he was born as the son of Devaki and
did not have any sons Desirous of obtaining a son, Krishna went to visit
the sage Upamanyu. The sage’s hermitage was beautiful. Wonderous were
the trees and flowers and grew there. The constant chanting of the Vedas
could be heard. Wild animals lost their ferocity as soon as they entered
the hermitage. Lotus flowers bloomed in the ponds. Sages came from all
over the country to meditate in the hermitage. The sacred river Ganga
flowed past the hermitage.
Krishna greeted the
sages and they worshipped him in return.
Krishna with various offerings and said, “Our meditation has been amply
rewarded by your visit. The great Vishnu has himself come to grace us by
your presence. But is there any particular reason as to why you have
come to the hermitage?”
“I wish to meet
Shiva,” replied Krishna. “How does one get to met him?”
“Shiva appears if a
devotee performs difficult tapasya,” said Upamanyu. “It helps if the
meditation is accompanied by great faith.”
words, Krishna began a difficult religious rite known as pashupata
vrata. He donned clothes made out of the barks of trees, smeared ashes
on his body and continuously chanted Shiva’s name. After many years had
passed, Shiva and Parvati appeared before Krishna.
“Krishna, why are
you performing tapasya?” asked Shiva. “You are the great Vishnu himself.
Any object that you desire is immediately attained. Why are you then
engaged in this task of meditation?”
“I wish to have a
son who is just like you,” said Krishna. “Please let him also be devoted
granted the boon and the son who was born was Shamba (alternatively,
Samba). He was the son of Krishna and Jambavati.
Shamba are to be found in the Vishnu Purana, and also in Mahabharata.)
remember that there are four yugas or eras - satya yuga or krita yuga,
treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga.
told the sages about the characteristics of these four eras.
Kali yuga is the
worst of the four eras. People are sinful and forget the dharma of the
four varnas and the four ashramas. In fact, men are so sinful that no
prescribed penance atones for their sins. The only place which is free
from such sins is the sacred city of Varanasi.
In satya yuga, the
best course to be pursued is meditation; in treta yuga it is the pursuit
of knowledge (jnana); in dvapara yuga it is the performance of yajnas;
and in kali yuga it is the donation of alms. Brahma is the primary god
in satya yuga, Surya in treta yuga, Vishnu in dvapara yuga and Shiva in
Envy and jealousy
were unknown in satya yuga and everyone was happy. There was no
superiors and inferiors and all individuals were equally healthy and
equally handsome. There were no fixed places for people to live in, no
cities and no villages. men lived in the mountains and on the shores of
In satya yuga,
water was always freely available. This was no longer the case in treta
yuga. Water only became available when it rained. Rain was unknown
earlier. And as it rained, trees began to grow. People lived on these
trees. The fruit from these trees provided the sustenance required to
make a living. But gradually, anger and jealousy came to be known and
many of the wonderful trees disappeared as mankind picked up evils ways.
However, enough trees were left to ensure that people did not die of
starvation. They lived on honey gathered from the trees. Although men
looked on satya yuga with nostalgia, ill-health and disease continued to
be unknown even in treta yuga. But towards the end of treta yuga, people
became really sinful. All the trees disappeared. To make a living,
mankind had to resort to agriculture and animal husbandry. The weather
became inclement and seasons like summer, monsoon and winter led to
hardship. Notions of property were also introduced. Individuals
appropriated mountains, rivers, land, trees and herbs as their own. To
instil righteousness in the minds of people, the principles of
varnashrama dharma were set out towards the end of treta yuga.
In dvapara yuga,
hatred, anger and jealousy became much more common. Fighting started. It
was then that Vedavyasa spread amongst ordinary people, the knowledge
that was in the Vedas, by dividing them. Drought, death and disease came
to be known in dvapara yuga.
In kali yuga,
fraudulence is the norm. There are severe droughts and famines,
revolutions take place. People are liars and sinners. They are easily
angered. They d not respect the brahmanas. The brahmanas, on their part,
forget all about the Vedas and yajnas. Shudras become kings and oppress
the brahmanas. Some Shudras shave off their heads and wear saffron
clothes. They pretend to be religious teachers. And horror of horrors,
people start to believe in these fraudulent teachers. Women wear
hairpins in their hair. As if this alone were not enough, they refuse to
obey their husbands. Thieves are everywhere. The only redeeming feature
of kali yuga is the fact that even if one worships Shiva just a little
bit in kali yuga, one attains undying punya (store of merit).
A linga is an image
of Shiva. There are several wonderful lingas in the wonderful city of
There is a gigantic
linga named Omkara. Amongst other famous lingas located in the city are
Krittivaseshvara, Madhyadeshvara, Vishveshvara and Kaparddishvara.
The Kurma Purana
recites the glories of these lingas. It also enumerates the various
tirthas (places of pilgrimage) that are to be found in the city of
It goes on to list
the virtues of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the city of Prayaga (modern
It is hoped that
you have not forgotten that Svayambhuva Manu had a son named Priyavrata.
Priyavrata had ten sons. Their names were Agnidhra, Agnivahu,
Vapushmana, Dyutimana, Medha, Medhatithi, Bhavya, Savana, Putra and
Medha, Agnivahu and
Putra had no desire to rule. They were not interested in material
pursuits and became hermits.
the earth amongst the remaining seven sons. Thus it was that the earth
came to be divided into seven regions or dvipas. The names of these
regions are Jambudvipa, Plakshadvipa, Shalmalidvipa, Kushadvipa,
Krounchjdvipa, Shakadvipa and Pushkaradvipa. Agnidhra ruled over
Jambudvipa, Medhatithi over Plakshadvipa, Vapushmana over Shalmalidvipa,
Jyotishmana over Kushadvipa, Dyutimana over Krounchadvipa, Bhavya over
Shakadvipa and Savan over Pushkaradvipa.
Agnidhra, the ruler
of Jambudvipa, had nine sons. Their names were Nabhi Kimpurusha, Hari,
Ilavrita, Ramya, Hiranyavana, Kuru, Bhadrashva and Ketumala. Agnidhra
divided Jambudvipa into nine regions (varshas) and gave each of his sons
a region to rule over. A king named Bharata was one of Nabhi’s
descendants. After the name of Bharata, the region that Nabhi ruled over
has come to be known as Bharatavarsha.
There are fourteen
regions (lokas) in the universe. Seven of them form the upper regions.
Their names are bhuloka, bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janaloka,
tapolaka and satyaloka. Bhuloka is the earth and its limits extend upto
the points that can be lit up the rays of the sun and the moon. Take the
distance from bhuloka to the solar circle. An equal distance beyond the
solar circle constitutes bhuvarloka. The region from the limits of
bhuvarloka to the region of Dhruva (the Pole Star) is svarloka or svarga
(heaven). Above the solar circle is the lunar circle and above that
come, successively, the regions of the stars (nakshatras), Budha
(Mercury), Shukra (Venus), Mangala (Mars), Brihaspati (Jupiter), the
saptarshis’ (the constellation Ursa Majoris or the Great Bear) and
Brihaspati and Mangala move slowly. The sun, the moon, Budha and Shukra
move relatively fast. The sun’s chariot is drawn by seven horses named
Gayatri, Vrihati, Ushnika, Jagati, Pamki, Anushtupa and Trishtupa. In
each month, the sun adopts a specific form known as an aditya. There are
thus twelve adityas - Dhatta, Aryama, Mitra, Varuna, Shakru, Vivasvana,
Pusha, Parjanya, Amshu, Bhaga, Tvashta and Vishnu.
Maharloka is above
the world of Dhruva (dhruvaloka). It is reserved for those who have been
freed from the bonds of the world. Janaloka is still further away.
Brahma’s sons live there. Tapaloka is beyond janaloka and satyaloka is
beyond tapaloka. Another word for satyaloka is brahmaloka, since Brahma
lives there. Vishnu lives there as well.
(The Kurma Purana
does not mention the seven lokas that constitute the lower regions of
the universe. This is the underworld (patala).)
There are seven
seas that surround the seven dvipas on earth. The names of the seas are
Kshara, Ikshu, Sura, Ghrita, Dadhi, Kshira and Svadu. (The names of the
seven oceans often differ from Purana to Purana.)
Right in the centre
of Jambudvipa is Mount Sumeru. To its south lie the mountains Himavana,
Hemakuta and Nishadha; and to its north the mountains Nila, Shveta and
Shringi. Bharatavarsha is to the south of Mount Sumeru. Brahma’s
assembly is located on the peak of Mount Sumeru.
You already know
what a manvantara is. The titles of the seven great sages (saptarshi),
the names of the gods and the title of Indra change from the manvantara
In the present
kalpa (cycle), six manvantaras have passed.
The first Manu was
The second Manu was
Svarochisha. The gods then were the paravatas and tushitas and the title
of Indra was held by Vipashchita. The seven great sages were Urjja,
Stamba, prana, Dambholi, Vrishabha, Timira and Arvarivana.
Uttama was the
third Manu. The gods of this manvantara were the sudhamas, stayas,
shivas, pratardanas and vashavartis and the name of the Indra was
Sushanti. Rajah, Gotra, Urddhavahu, Savana, Anagha, Sutapa and Shukra
were the seven great sages.
The fourth Manu was
Tamasa. The gods of this era were the suravas, haris, satyas and sudhas
and the title of Indra was held by Shibi. The seven great sages were
Jyotirdhama, Prithu, Kavya, Chaitra, Agni, Varuna and Pivara.
In the fifth
manvantara, the Manu was Raivata and the title of Indra was held by
Vibhu. The gods were the bhutis and the vaikunthas and the seven great
sages were Hiranyaroma, Vedashri, Urddhavahu, Vedavahu, Suvahu and
Suparjanya. (The name of the seventh great sage is missing.)
Svarochisha, Uttama, Tamasa and Raivata were all descended from
The sixth Manu was
Chakshusha and the Indra then was Manojava. The gods were known as the
adyas, prasutas, bhavyas, prithukas and lekhas. Sumedha, Vrija,
Havishmana, Uttama, Madhu, Abhimana and Sahishnu were the seven great
manvantara is the one that is now current and the Indra now is
Purundara. The Manu is Shraddhadeva, the gods are the adityas, the
vasus, the rudras and the maruts. The names of the seven great sages are
Vashishtha, Kashyapa, Atri, Jamadagni, Goutama, Vishvamitra and
In the present
kalpa, there will be seven more manvantaras in the future. Thereafter,
the world will be destroyed.
(It should be
mentioned that the names given in this section do not necessarily tally
with the names given in the other Puranas. Not only do the names of the
gods, the sages and the Indras differ, the names of the future
manvantaras also sometimes differ from Purana to Purana.)
In every dvapara
yuga, a Vedavyasa is born so as to divide the Vedas and disseminate
their knowledge. In the present era, there have been twenty-eight
dvapara yugas and there have therefore been twenty-eight individuals who
have held the title of Vedavyasa. The Kurma Purana gives their names as
the Vedas into four parts and taught them to four of his disciples. He
taught Paila the Rig Veda. Vaishampayana the Yajur Veda, Jaimini the
Sama Veda and Sumantu the Atharva Veda. As for the Puranas, they were
taught to Lomaharshana.
Most Puranas only
mention Vishnu’s incarnations (avataras). The Kurma Purana is one of the
rate ones which mentions Shiva’s incarnations.
In each kali yuga,
Shiva has had an incarnation. The names of these incarnations are as
was reciting the Kurma Purana to the assembled sages, Krishna Dvaipayana
Vedavyasa arrived on the scene. Lomaharshana and the other sages
requested Vedavyasa to instruct them about the path to true knowledge.
This is what Vedavyasa told them.
The paramatman (the
divine soul) is the only truth. It is ever pure and ever present. It is
from the paramatman that the universe is created and it is into the
paramatman that the universe merges at the time of its destruction. The
paramatman is not the earth. It is not water, energy, wind or sky. It
cannot be touched, nor can it be sensed.
The paramatman is
always present in the jivatman (human soul). Any sense of distinction
between the paramatman and the jivatman is due to illusions and the
presence of the ego. The truly learned rise above such illusions.
Therefore, a wise person does not see any distinction between his own
self and other objects. The same paramatman pervades everything. Just as
all rivers unite with the ocean, a learned person realises that all
individuals jivatmans unite with the paramatman.
union) is a technique of meditation that helps to bring about this sense
of identity between the jivatman and the paramatman. Yoga has eight
components. The first is pranayama. This means the control of one’s
breath. The breath of life is known as prana and ayama means control.
There are three parts to any pranayama exercise. When the breath is
being exhaled, that is known as rechaka; and the process of inhalation
is known as puraka. When the breath is neither being inhaled nor
exhaled, that is kumbhaka.
component of yoga is pratyahara. This connotes the control of one's
senses. Yoga must always be performed in a proper posture and this is
the third component of asana. The fourth component is called yama. This
means the practice of non-violence, truthfulness and pity. The fifth
component is known as niyama. This encompasses worship, studying the
Vedas, cleanliness and meditation.
Yoga has a sixth
component named dhyana. In this process, one conjures up an image of the
paramatman and meditates continuously on it. The process of fixing this
image in one's heart is the seventh component, dharana. And the final
component, samadhi, is a situation where the individual realises the
complete identity between the jivatman and the paramatman.
The sacred thread
(upavita) ceremony is very important and must always be performed at
eight year of age. Brahma had created the cotton tree so that sacred
threads might be made out of cotton. But on occasions it is permissible
to make sacred threads out of grass.
A guru (teacher) is
always to be respected and worshipped. In principle, a guru is anyone
from whom knowledge might be gained. But apart from usual teachers, a
father-in-law, a grandfather and an individual belonging to a superior
varna are also recognised as gurus. A mother, a grandmother, a guru's
wife, an aunt, a mother-in-law and the wife of an elder brother are
recognised as being equivalent to a guru. One must a guru ever be show
disrespect or argued with. A person who hates his guru is certain to go
Amongst gurus or
those who are equivalent to gurus, the most important are a father, a
mother, a teacher, an elder brother and a husband. These have to be
respectfully served at all costs.
A brahmana must
always wash his mouth after eating, drinking, sleeping, bathing,
spitting or changing clothes. The mouth must also be washed before
sitting down to study. It is also recommended that the mouth be washed
after talking to those who do not believe in the Vedas, shudras,
outcasts and women. If a mouthwash is not possible, one can cleanse
oneself by touching a piece of clothing is touched inadvertently, the
act of purification requires the touching of water, wet grass or the
One of the most
sacred mantras (incantations) that one can chant is the gayatri. Before
chanting, thirty-two-cells must be drawn, as shown, and the letters of
the mantra must be written down in the cells, as indicated. To recite
the gayatri, one now reads the letters as they occur in the numbered
cells. That is, one starts with cell number one, moves to cell number
two and so on and so forth.
5 13 21 29
28 20 12 4
vvr sya pra se
ja nah va tu
6 14 22 30
27 19 11 3
re dhi cho sa
ra yo de vi
7 15 23 31
26 18 10 2
ni ma da va
ro yo rgo tsa
8 16 24 32
25 17 9 1
yam hi yat dom
pa dhi bha ta
A person who kills
a brahmana, drinks wine, or steals gold from a brahmana, has to perform
penance by killing himself. A person who kills a brahmana may also build
a hut in the forest and live there for a period of twelve years. But
throughout the period, he has to bear a mark signifying the dead
brahmana’s head on his palm. He is also not permitted to visit another
brahmana or a temple as long as the penance is going on. It needs to be
mentioned that the sin of killing a brahmana can be thus pardoned only
if the killing was done inadvertently. If the killing was conscious, no
penance will suffice. Under such circumstances, the sinner had best
immolate himself in a fire, drown himself, or fast to death.
For other sins, the
observance of a religious rite (vrata) is often indicated. The major
vratas are as follows.
(i) Santapana: This
involves living for one whole day on cow’s urine, cowdung, cow’s milk,
curds made from cow’s milk and clarified butter made from cow’s milk.
The next day is a day of fasting.
This is a more severe version of the earlier vrata. In the case of
santapana vrata, five items were listed as permissible food.
Mahasantapana vrata lasts for a period of six days, and on each of these
days, only one of the five items mentioned may be partaken of. The
seventh day is day of fasting.
(iii) Prajapatya or
krichha: If this vrata is to be observed, one can eat only during the
day. For the first three days, one is only permitted to eat twenty-six
handfuls of food, each handful being as large as a hen’s egg.
For the next three
days, twenty-two handfuls are permitted, but only in the evenings. And
for the final three days, twenty-four handful are permitted.
This is a more severe version of the earlier vrata. For the first three
days, a single handful of food is permitted during the day. For the next
three days, one handful is permitted in the evenings. One handfuls of
food, each handful being as large as a hen’s egg.
For the next three
days, twenty-two handfuls are permitted, but only in the evenings. And
for the final three days, three-four handfuls are permitted.
(v) Paraka: Twelve
continuous days of fasting are required for this.
This vrata lasts for a period of twelve days, during which time one is
permitted to bathe only once a day. For the first three days one drinks
only water; for the next three days one lives on milk; one has to live
on clarified butter for the ensuing three days are days of fasting.
Krichhatikrichha: If one is to observe this vrata, one has to live only
on milk for the space of twenty-one days.
This vrata lasts for four days. For the first day one eats only one
meal; the second day is a day of fasting; on the third day one can eat
as much as one wants; and on the fourth and final day, one fasts.
This vrata lasts for an entire month and begins on the day of the full
moon (purnima). On the first day, fifteen handfuls are to be eaten.
Thereafter, one handfuls less is eaten on successive days, until on the
day of new moon (amavasya), one fasts completely. On each day that
follows, the amount of food eaten is increased by one handful. Finally,
on the day of the next full moon, fifteen handfuls of food are eaten and
the vrata is completed.
earlier, those who kill brahmanas, steal their gold, or drink wine, are
sinners. Also sinners are those who associate with these aforementioned
sinners for more than one year. Those who associate with outcasts for
more than a year are also sinners.
A brahmana who
drinks wine should drink boiling wine as a penance. It is also permitted
to drink cow’s urine as atonement. A person who steals gold from
brahmanas will go to the king and confess his guilt. His penance will be
completed when the king beats him to death with a club. The only
exception is a case where the thief himself happens to be a brahmana. He
can then perform penance by meditating. It is always a king’s duty to
punish sinners. If the king fails in this task, the sins vest with the
A person who
associates with sinners has to observe taptakrichha vrata for one year.
A man who takes on outcast for a wife has to observe taptakrichha or
santapana. A brahmana who kills a kshatriya is required to observe
prajapatya, santapana or taptakrichha for one year. In case the victim
is a vaishya, krichhatikrichha or chandrayana are indicated. If a shudra
is killed, five hundred cows have to be donated. If an elephant is
killed, taptakrichha vrata has to be observed. Chandrayana will suffice
if a cow is killed inadvertently. But if a cow is consciously killed,
there is no penance that is adequate.
For minor thefts,
the stolen goods have to be returned to the rightful owner and santapana
observed. But if a brahmana steals foodgrains, he has to observe
prajapatya for an entire year. A cannibal can purity himself through
chandrayana vrata. A person who eats the meat of a crow, dog or
elephant, has to observe taptakrichha. Santapana is for those who happen
to eat mongooses, owls or cats. An eater of camels or donkeys observes
A brahmana who
becomes an atheist can cleanse himself through prajapatya. If he revolts
against the gods or against his guru, the act of purification involves
taptakrichha. A brahmana who recites the Puranas to outcasts has to
There are several
other forms of penance that are catalogued by the Kurma Purana.
It is certain that
you know the story of the Ramayana and you therefore also known that
Ravana, the king of lanka, abducted Sita, Rama’s wife. But you certainly
do not know the story of the Sita who was an illusion (maya sita).
This story clearly
illustrates that no harm can come to a person who is righteous.
himself as a hermit and came to abduct Sita. But Sita got to know of
Ravana’s plan and was determined to foil it. She therefore began to pray
to Agni, the god of fire.
Thus stirred by
Sita’s prayers, Agni appeared and produced a Sita who was really an
illusion. This maya sita he left in the real Sita’s place. As for the
real Sita, she was absorbed into the fire. Without realising the
substitutions, Ravana abducted the illusory Sita and the entire war was
fought over a Sita who was not even real.
When Rama triumphed
over Ravana and recovered Sita, a test by fire (agni pariksha) was held.
In the process, the
sita who was an illusion was returned to the fire and the real Sita
emerged once again. Thus the real Sita was never tainted by Ravana’s
(The story of the
Sita who was an illusion is also given in the Brahmavaivarta Purana).
Many years ago,
Brahma lost his head slightly. He began to imagine that he was superior
to Shiva and Vishnu. He told all the sages, “I am the supreme godhead.
There is no one else but me.”
While Brahma was
thus instructing the sages, Vishnu arrived and was enraged at Brahma’s
behaviour. “You are indeed ignorant,” he told Brahma. “I am the supreme
godhead. You are only the creator. But I am, after all, the preserver.”
While Vishnu and
Brahma were thus arguing the four Vedas adopted animate forms and
appeared before them. Each of the Vedas tried to persuade Brahma and
Vishnu that Shiva was superior to both of them. Vishnu was persuaded by
this reasoning, but Brahma was not.
He told the Vedas,
“You must be joking. How can Shiva be superior to the two of us? He is
always wandering around with ghosts and demons for companions.”
While all this was
going on, who should arrive but Shiva? Brahma promptly proceeded to
insult Shiva. Shiva then created a being named Kalabhairava from his own
body and Kalabhairava started to fight with Brahma. In those days,
Brahma used to have five heads. In course of the fighting, Kalabhairava
chopped off one of Brahma’s heads. Ever since that day, Brahma has had
four heads and four faces.
(In many other
Puranas, there is no mention of Kalabhairava. shiva performed the
chopping off himself).
Brahma died as soon
as his head had been cut off. Shiva did manage to revive him. But the
mere fact that Shiva had killed Brahma, meant that Shiva and committed
the sin of killing Brahma, a brahmana. As a result of this sin, Brahma’s
severed head got stuck to Kalabhairava’s palm and would not be
dislodged. (In accounts where Shiva was himself responsible for the
Killing, the severed head adhered to Shiva’s palm).
around the world and the head accompanied him on his travels. for a
thousand years of the gods, Kalabhairava continued to travel.
Eventually, Vishnu advised Kalabhairava to go to the sacred city of
As soon as
Kalabhairava arrived at the city of Varanasi, the head (kapala) got
dislodged (mochana). A tirtha is a place of pilgrimage. The exact spot
where this wonderful happening took place is accordingly known as
There are many
other tirthas that the Kurma Purana describes, Among these are Prayaga,
Kurukshetra, Gaya and Madhuvana (Mathura), The glories of the river
Narmada are also described. The waters of the river Sarasvati purify a
sinner after three days of bathing, while the waters of the river Yamuna
takes an entire week. The mere touch of a drop of water from the river
Ganga purifies a sinner. But as for the river Narmada, the sight of the
waters alone is enough.
There used to be a
sage named Shilada. He was righteous and learned in the shastras.
To obtain a son,
Shilada began to pray to shiva. The tapasya went on for a thousand years
and shiva appeared before Shilada.
“I am pleased with
your meditation.” said shiva, “what boon do you desire?”
“Please grant me
the boon that I may obtain a son who will not be born from a mother. “
replied Shilada, “And my son should be immortal.”
Shiva granted the
When shilada was
ploughing the land, a handsome boy suddenly appeared on the top of his
plough. The four directions shone with the boy’s radiance and the boy
began to address shilada as “father”.
The son studied the
shastras and became learned. He was given the name of Nandi.
Nandi wished to see
shiva and he also wished to become immortal. He therefore went to the
shores of the ocean and started to pray to shiva. He chanted the
required mantra one crore times.
When Shiva appeared
and wished to grant a boon. Nandi said. “Please grant me enough of life
so that I can chant the mantra one crore times more.”
Shiva appeared once
again, and Nandi desired the same boon.
When this had
happened three times. Shiva said, “Enough is enough. There is no need
for any more chanting of incantations. I make you immortal, I also make
you a ganapati, lord over the ganas. You will be my constant companion.”
The place where
Nandi chanted the incantation has become famous as japyeshvara tirtha.
The maruts had a
daughter named Suyasha. Shiva himself arranged that Nandi should be
married to Suyasha.
his recital of the Kurma Purana and the sages saluted him. They sung
The Kurma Purana is
most sacred. a person who reads it attains Brahmaloka. A person who
reads only one chapter of the text is forgiven all his sins. Undying
punya is attained by an individual who donates this Purana to brahmanas
in the months of Vaishakha or Kartika. Particularly sacred is the part
that is known as the brahmi samhita.
But the text should
never be read or recited in the presence of shudras. A person who
ignores this injunction will surely go to hell. There is also a similar
injunction about reciting the text to those who are disbelievers (that
is, those who do not believe in the Vedas), a person who violates this
injunction will be born as a dog in his next life.
You will almost
certainly not be interested in donating the Kurma Purana to brahmanas in
the months of Vaishakha or Kartika. But I hope you have found the
stories interesting enough for you to which to read the text in the